In New York at the Manhattan Museum of Art, Daniel Travers breaks in after hours. He makes his way to a painting of Saint Marcos by Montoya, on loan from the Republic of San Marcos, and bypasses the laser security system by extending a knife blade on a cane through the grid and cutting the painting out of his frame. A security guard comes by and finds the painting missing, and Travers stabs him in the back with the same weapon. He then pulls the painting through the laser grid, rolls it up, and places it in the cane. Finally Travers removes his mask and suit, revealing a tuxedo beneath, and goes to the reception being held elsewhere in the museum. Minister Raphael Ocha is waiting for him and Travers welcomes him to New York. When Ocha asks if it it’s done, Travers flashes the blade of his cane and says that it is.
Jim goes to a ballet studio to pick up his briefing from a paint. He’s informed that two nights ago, Travers stole the painting, a national treasure of San Marcos. The U.S. will be blamed and the IMF believes that Ocha engineered the theft of the painting and employed Travers, a hotelier who finances his business by stealing and selling art on the black market. The IMF team must find the painting, bring Travers to justice, and get back all of the paintings that he has stolen.
Jim meets the team at an apartment in New York and informs them that Travers is on the museum board and was in San Marcos a month ago arranging for the exhibition. They have the blueprints to Travers’ hotel, Travers Towers, and the penthouse apartment where he lives, and they plan to check there first for the stolen art. Grant has created a painting assimilator and needs a subject. Jim figures that Travers will have a favorite artist and Shannon’s job will be to find out who it is. She has already made contact with the auction house where Travers will be in an hour, and her and Nicholas will go posing as an investor and his consultant. They plan to convince Travers that Shannon also deals in stolen art.
At the Danmeer Auction House, Travers arrives just as the first painting is presented.
At Travers Tower, Grant and Max go in and take the elevator up. They reach the highest public floor and they don’t have time for Grant to bypass the lockout. The two agents jam the elevator, put an out of order sign up, and go through the roof of the car. They let Jim know they’re in position, and he warns them that Travers will head back to his penthouse once he gets the painting he wants.
Shannon bids against Travers for the painting that he wants. He finally outbids her and wins the painting, and Shannon offers her congratulations. The auctioneer, Brian Danmeer, congratulates Travers, who asks if Shannon is working for him. Brian assures Travers that Shannon is a legitimate bidder who works for businessmen obtaining works of art, including Nicholas. As Shannon leaves, Travers admires her beauty.
Max puts a tap on Travers’ phone while Grant checks the safe and confirms the paintings aren’t there. He then downloads the fax machine’s memory while Max calls Jim to tell him they’re coming up empty.
Shannon waits for Travers and says that her client really wanted the painting. She suggests that they work together and hints that her clients want paintings that aren’t on the market, including a Montoya. Travers says he isn’t interested but Shannon points out that the most famous one was stolen from his museum. She then leaves, saying they’ll meet again.
The team returns to the apartment and Grant cracks a coded message from San Marcos on Travers’ fax machine. It’s from the president, stating that Ocha is returning to New York to meet with Travers to discuss the launch of a media campaign in a day. The team figures that Travers is planning to break the arrangement he had with Ocha and Jim says that they’ll be at the press conference.
The next day, Travers introduces Ocha to the reporters. He notices Shannon going inside and follows her, while Max follows them from a distant. Travers expresses his admiration for Edgar Degas and Shannon offers him a missing Degas. The hotelier says that there is no known painting but Shannon says that she has access to an unknown Degas. Ocha comes in and Travers leaves with him, and Shannon follows them. While Max takes a texture photo of the Degas Travers was admiring, Shannon listens in as Travers demands five miles of San Marcos coastal land and exclusive hotel rights there, tax-free. If he doesn’t get it, the Montoya will reappear. As Ocha objects, Travers notices Shannon’s reflection in a metal sculpture. Ocha says that he’ll discuss it with his superior and leaves, and Travers confronts Shannon, flashing his sword cane blade. Max calls Jim and tells him that their teammate is in danger, but Jim tells him that Shannon knows they have to maintain their cover.
Shannon admits that she’s a fence and Travers says that she prove her credentials by producing the missing Degas. He takes Shannon to her penthouse so she can make arrangements, while Max briefs Jim. Grant feeds everything on Degas into his assimilator.
At the penthouse, Travers tells Shannon to make the call to get the Degas. She calls Jim while Travers listens in, and they stage a conversation. Jim finally agrees to deliver the painting in Central Park at five that afternoon. Once Shannon hangs up, Travers offers her a drink. Meanwhile, Grant puts an authentic hundred-year-old canvas in his assimilator and then has the computer generate an “authentic” Degas.
Later at Central Park, Jim brings the Degas and Travers demands to see it immediately. Jim agrees and informs Travers that the asking price is $18 million. Travers is convinced and Jim asks if his evaluator is reliable as well as discrete. They take it to Brian Danmeer, who confirms that it is a Degas original. Jim refuses to negotiate and when they refuse, Jim takes the painting and leaves.
Back at the apartment, Jim and Shannon tell Grant that his forgery was accepted as authentic. That night, Travers breaks in via the skylight and finds the painting. Shannon is in the next room, taking a bath, and calls out to Jim. Travers takes the painting and then enters the bathroom and stabs Shannon with his sword cane. Once he’s gone, Jim checks on Shannon, who was wearing a bulletproof vest hidden by the soap bubbles. Max and Grant follow Travers tracking the bug they planted in the frame. Nicholas is in the lobby and watches as Travers goes down instead of up.
Grant and Max pull into the hotel’s underground garage and see Travers going into an inconspicuous door. Nicholas joins them and they go into the basement and follow the tracker. Travers goes to a hidden door, enters his security code into a hidden keypad, and seals the door behind him. By the time the agents get there, there’s no sign of where Travers has gone and Grant’s bug is blocked by the solid-steel door. Meanwhile, Travers enters his underground lair and adds the fake Degas to his collection of other works. He then turns the lights low, adds some music, and offers a toast to the artist.
The next morning, Jim comes up with a different approach. Nicholas makes a mask of Ocha. At the San Marcos consulate, Max waits outside as Ocha arrives. He covertly takes photos of him and faxes the reference shot to the others. Inside, Ocha calls Travers and tells him that they’re agreeing to his terms. They want the Montoya immediately but Travers demands a document confirming the transfer of land and rights.
Jim and Max visit Ocha posing as a police captain and Interpol agent, respectively. They tell the minister that they’ve found the Montoya, much to Ocha’s surprise. Max claims it was in a shipment of art going to the Yakuza and Jim assures Ocha that it is on its way back to the museum. Once they leave, Ocha calls Travers and demands an explanation. Travers insists that he has the Montoya but Ocha tells him that the land grant is cancelled. An angry Travers warns him that he can’t afford second-guessing him and hangs up.
As Ocha leaves to meet Travers at his hotel, Grant is outside posing as a hot dog vendor. Shannon, walking two poodles, “accidentally” trips Ocha, who falls behind the cart where his chauffeur can’t see him. Nicholas is in the hollow bottom of the cart, still disguised as Ocha, shoots the minister with a tranq dart, and then takes Ocha’s place. While Nicholas leaves in the limo, Grant dumps the unconscious Ocha into the hot dog cart.
Nicholas goes to Travis Towers and Travers takes him to the subbasement. As they go in, Nicholas records the keypad combination. Travers explains that he built the hotel on the site of an old bank, while Nicholas takes photos of the paintings. The Degas is kept in a secure vault and Nicholas prepares to take it, but Travers warns him that it’s rigged to explode. Once he has the legal documents, he’ll turn the Montoya over.
Back at the apartment, Grant goes over the photos that Nicholas took. Nicholas says that there was no sprinkler system, only handheld extinguishers, and the lair isn’t on the hotel blueprints. Jim figures that it’s Travers’ Achilles heel and has Grant duplicate the other paintings. He warns that they won’t be good for a close examination but Jim says that it doesn’t matter. As Grant goes to work, Jim says that they’ll force Travers to hand over the Montoya to the real Ocha this time.
That night, Max and Grant go into the subbasement and enter Travers’ hidden lair. Max takes the real paintings and puts up the fakes, while Grant puts up two miniature projectors on the spiral staircase coming down into the room. At the apartment, Nicholas poses as Ocha and calls Travers, telling him that they’re agreeing to the terms. Jim and Nicholas have Shannon stay behind to monitor the bug and notify them when they hear the real Ocha in Travers’ penthouse. They then take a fake police car with the unconscious Ocha in the back. Jim wakes Ocha up and tells him that he had an accident and hit his head. Ocha orders them to take him to Travers Towers.
Grant sets up piping on the floor beneath the wall where the paintings are mounted. He also rigs the frame of the Degas with wiring and then goes to the door with Max. When Ocha arrives in the penthouse and demands to see the Montoya, Travers is confused. Shannon signals Jim, who has Grant set off the fire detectors. Max activates the gas jets, setting off controlled flames.
Travers and Ocha run to the lair and the hotelier is shocked to see his paintings in flame. Ocha threatens to destroy the Degas until Travers gives him the Montoya. The hotelier goes to the secure vault and opens it, removes the Montoya, and hands it over to Ocha. Ocha throws it into the “flames,” unaware that they are hologram flames generated by Grant’s hidden projectors. The minister tells Travers that he only needed the Montoya so he could destroy it and let the Americans take the blame. As Ocha walks out, Travers throws his cane like a spear, killing him.
Max shuts off the gas flames and the team steps into the room. Travers is shocked to see Shannon alive, and even more shocked when Grant triggers the wiring on the frame of the fake Degas, causing it to explode into flames. As Travers stares at it in horror, Jim picks up the discarded Montoya from the hologrammatic flames and Grant shuts down the projectors. As the team leaves, Travers screams in anguish. Outside, the police arrive and Jim tells them to book Travers for murder one before leaving with the others.